32 terms only airmen will understand
As the youngest member of the U.S. armed forces, the Air Force gets a lot of flak from other branches, despite having the capacity to (arguably) destroy all life on Earth in 30 minutes. In its relative short history, its Airmen evolved a culture and language all their own.
The original Dirtbag Airman, he’s an example Air Force instructors use to train Airmen how not to do the wrong things in hypothetical situations. The difference between the example and the real Airman Snuffy is the real Snuffy is a Medal of Honor recipient. He tried to put out a deadly aircraft fire by pissing on it while simultaneously shooting down Nazi fighter planes.
What the Piss
This is the trademark, go-to phrase said (yelled) by Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI). From Zero Week until graduation, anytime you forget where you are, you’ll hear this phrase right before you get a reminder. Only MTIs know why they chose this. It could be a tribute to Airman Snuffy.
The Snake Pit
Where Air Force MTIs eat, usually right at the end of the chow line, so every Airman trainee has to walk by to get to their table.
Never to be referred to as such – it is technically the Flight Office Technician, aka the MTI’s assistant. See also: Snitch.
The most persistent myth about the Air Force. Other branches think we get these during basic training in case we need “to take a moment.” These have never existed and never will, but because of the Air Force’s old six-week basic training length, it sure sounds plausible. If the USAF ever did try this, the ghost of Curtis LeMay would burn the Air Force Secretary’s house down.
Before basic trainees get their first uniform issue (aka “slicksleeves”) at Lackland, they’re usually walking around in the civvies in which they first arrived. In formation, they look like a dirtbag rainbow and probably smell bad because they have been wearing these clothes for 2-4 days.
“Sir/Ma’am, Trainee ________ reports as ordered,” the phrase you give an MTI anytime you need to respond to an inquiry.
AF Form 341
Excellence Discrepancy Report – Every Airman in Basic Training and Technical School must carry at least three of these small forms on their person at all times. When you screw up, one will be demanded of you and turned into your training unit. The 341 is an excellent way to introduce Airmen to the primary Air Force disciplinary system – Paperwork. Rumors of this form being used to report excellence are unsubstantiated.
The Nutri-Grain Bar Prank
More advanced basic trainees will sometimes tell newer trainees they can’t eat the Nutri-Grain Bars at breakfast unless they take the bar, slam it on the Snake Pit’s table and shout out what flavor it is, then stand at parade rest until given permission to digest.
Dirtbag Airman (DBA)
The chaff that fell through the cracks — The Dirtbag Airman has no regard for regulations, dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, or even personal hygiene. It shows up late with Starbucks cups and takes the most breaks while doing the least work.
Refers to pulling the wedges used to prevent a stationary aircraft from moving while parked on the flightline. Also known as “Let’s go” or “Let’s get out of here,” in Air Force parlance, because you have to pull the chocks before the plane can leave the base.
The Air Force does not have Chow Halls or Mess Tents. It has Dining Facilities (or DFACs). Referring to the building in which Airmen who do not have the time to go to the BX Food Court or Burger King as a “Chow Hall” actually offends senior enlisted Food Service Craftsmen.
A USAF Weapons Loader. He or she sometimes drives a “Jammer.”
Notes made by USAF pilots and left for maintenance crews to fix. Because aircraft maintainers are, for the most part, funny, sometimes the crews’ responses are worth compiling.
Not an actual hunk of meat. A Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force is a rapidly deployable, specialized civil engineer unit. If you’re deployed in an austere location, you want them to be your best friends.
The sound an A-10 Thunderbolt II aka “Warthog” makes when projecting freedom.
Means “Below the Zone” promotion from E-3 to E-4, or getting that extra stripe before your regular time in service promotion. Squadrons sometimes groom Airmen for this.
This is the regulation for Air Force Dress and Appearance Standards, and is usually the only Air Force Instruction most Airmen actually know, can remember when asked, or have ever read.
The Gauntlet – aka “Tacking On”
Enlisted Air Force personnel wear their rank on the sleeves of their ABUs. When they are promoted, their new rank is “tacked on.” The Airman’s peers stand in two lines, the new rank patches are pinned to the Airman’s uniform, and the promotee walks down the line as his coworkers punch them as hard as possible in the rank.
An enlisted performance review system designed to keep you from earning a perfect rating (and ultimately a BTZ promotion) despite being the best performer in your unit at your actual job function, because you didn’t volunteer to pick up trash at the squadron commander’s mandatory fun burger burn.
FOD is Foreign Object Debris, anything on the flightline that doesn’t belong there and could damage the aircraft. Entire units sometimes walk shoulder to shoulder picking up whatever FOD they find. Airmen in non-flightline roles will sometimes be assigned to augment FOD walks.
First Shirt or “Shirt”
The unit First Sergeant. There are a lot of theories as to why, but there’s no real consensus.
Operation Golden Flow
Being “randomly selected” to have someone watch you pee for drug use testing.
Why Not Minot?
Universally regarded as the most unpleasant duty station due to its extreme remoteness, Minot Air Force Base’s staff use this phrase to laugh at their situation because otherwise the terrorists win. The entire Air Force recognizes this phrase and it’s reply: Freezin’s the reason! In the SAC days, they would say “there’s a woman behind every tree!” There were no trees.
Jet fuel. Smells like freedom.
Prop Wash and Flight Line
A fool’s errand given to new enlisted airmen, similar to a snipe hunt or the Army’s “box of grid squares.”
The Wing-level Commander — usually the base commander — who is always 0-6 or above. Sometimes the highest ranking person on the base, though some bases have multiple wings, missions, etc.
Walking outside the designated personnel areas (marked in red) on the flightline or not using designated entry and exit control areas. Breaking Red will result in youtr face pressed to the ground with a boot on your back and an M-16 pointed at your neck (aka Eating Ramp). Security Forces love it when people do this.
Liquid oxygen used in aircraft oxygen systems, run by environmental management techs. Sometimes used to cool beer. (Update: Some readers did not realize this is a joke. Using LOX to cool beer is a bad idea.)
Every career field and unit has its own slang, motto, and/or culture. IYAAYAS is the most widely-known and is the official rally cry of the USAF Munitions Specialists and means “If You Ain’t Ammo, You Ain’t Shit.” Others include “Who the hell, POL” (fuels) and “No Comm, No Bomb” (Communications).
Aerial Porters who rig cargo, parachutes, prepare airdrops and load/unload aircraft are technically “Air Transportation Specialists” but are referred to as Port Dawgs.
Derivative of “Fool Proof,” this is how Airmen lord our higher ASVAB score requirements over the Army. Every time a grunt says “Chair Force,” an Air Force PJ gains one of their IQ points.